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European countries are arranged alphabetically; for interesting facts about a particular country, please click on country's initial letter.
The Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, stopped the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in Western Europe. His contribution is commemorated in monuments, statues, and squares named after him in many European cities, as Rome, Vienna, Geneva, Skopje, and Pristina, Paris and Brussels. The alloy of tin and copper is called bronze. Tin by itself was too soft to work with. The oldest known artefacts made from bronze have such a low tin content that it was probably added by accident.
The cable from a cable car is made from steel with a hemp center to increase flexibility. To protect the cable from rusting a zinc coating is often applied which can often last up to 50 years.
The Doppelmayr Garaventa Group is an Austrian company that specialises in cable cars as well as other urban people movers and material handling systems. They are the worlds leading and largest ropeway manufacturers.
The Austrian engineer Paul Eisler invented the first printed circuit which became commonplace commercially in the 1950’s.Today just about every electronic appliance contains a printed circuit board. The invention of the PBC has helped to enable electronic circuits to be more compact and convenient.
The PBC board is either made from fiberglass with a copper foil bonded on to one or both sides or paper reinforced phenolic resin with bonded copper foil. The latter is less expensive and can be found in most household appliances. A thin layer of tin-lead can also be found in PBC’s which prevents oxidation and also nickel and gold which enhances conductivity.
Lead glass differs from typical potash glass as the lead it contains replaces the calcium content making it more attractive whilst also easier to melt and manipulate. Swarovski AG is a popular Austrian producer of luxury cut lead glass.
Lead glass consists of 18-40 % weight lead oxide (PbO) however the European Union regulations state that glass products must contain at least 24% of lead oxide to be considered lead glass.
Vitreous enamel is versatile in the sense that it can be applied to almost any metal. Austria and Germany were the first countries to apply enamel commercially to sheet iron and steel which is now common world wide. The key ingredient of vitreous enamel is frit which is actually a type of glass.
The curved bowl of Belgian beer glasses directs the hop aroma’s (responsible for 75% of the beers taste) better towards your nose than a straight pint glass. Thin glass walls will keep a drink colder. The more pure quartz is used to make the glass, the thinner the walls can be.
The Atomium was built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels and is shaped to form one unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. It symbolises the democratic wish to have peace between all people in technical and scientific development. Despite the fact that the Atomium was not intended to survive beyond 1958, it is now a key landmark of Brussels.
Aluminium sheets were initially used to construct the building, however due to fading; these were replaced with stainless steel in 2006.
The copper, aluminium, zinc and tin mixture that the 10, 20 and 50 cent euro coins are made of is non-allergenic and has antifungal properties. Also, the copper makes all coins weakly antimicrobial.
To ensure that Euro coins can’t be counterfeit, high-security machine-readable features have been added. Nordic gold is used to make the €0.10, €0.20 and €0.50 coins. This unique alloy is difficult to melt and is used primarily for coins.
The Belgian designer Luc Luycx, designed the reverse side of the Euro coin showing the value of the coin.
Today, asphalt concrete is used for a variety of purposes such as to surface roads, parking lots and airports and also as the core of embarkment dams (to name a few) and consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers and compacted. It was a Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt that enhanced and refined the process of making asphalt concrete.
Copper not only conducts heat very well but it also stores it keeping your coffee warm for a longer time. Copper is mainly used in a mixture with other metals called an alloy. For instance brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.
The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. Its beautiful interior is decorated with Italian marble Brazilian onyx alabaster and other luxurious materials. The decor is one of the churches many features that attracts tourists making it Sofia’s primary tourist attraction.
The 12 bells that ring in the clock tower of the church weigh almost 23 tons in total. One of the bells weighs 12 tons along with a tongue of 780 kg and the smallest bell weighs only 10kg.
Georgi Nadjakov a Bulgarian physicist experimented investigating the photo conducting properties of sulphur which led to his discovery of the photoelectret state. Its practical application led to the invention of the modern day photocopier by Chester Carlosn some years later.
To prevent a boat from tipping in strong winds, a ballast is often placed in the keel. Lead is commonly used for a ballast because of its high density and resistance against corrosion.
Glass fibres are used in some boats for reinforcement purposes. Large furnaces are needed for the manufacture of glass fibres to successfully and gradually melt the silica sand, limestone, kaolin clay, fluorspar, colemanite, dolomite and other minerals to liquid form.
‘Trim’ houses on the Island of Hvar were the first buildings of the Stone Age and today
many of them still stand with the original foundations. Some of the houses were built without any mortar between the thick walls which allowed for pleasant temperatures both in the summer and winter.
During the time of the Roman Empire, Cyprus was a main source for mining copper with the cities of Amathous, Tamassoss, and Soli being the most important for mining. Chalcopyrite was extensively mined by the Romans in the well-preserved mining site located near Soli, Skouriotissa
Copper was extensively mined in the Roman Era in Cyprus and as a result the name copper comes from the Greek word “Kyprios" meaning Cypriot.
Copper is a very versatile material however the major applications of copper are in electrical wires (60%) roofing and plumbing (20%) and industrial machinery (15%). Pure copper is soft and malleable so when a higher hardness is required it is combined with other elements to make an alloy (5% of total use) such as brass and bronze.
The production of graphite leads from graphite and clay was patented in 1802 by Josef Hardtmuth. The original company located in Ceske Budejovice (in the Czech Republic) is still currently one of the world leaders in the production and distribution of the first-rate pencils and other stationery.
Natural graphite can be found in many objects from pencils to high-tech applications. Graphene, the natural occurrence of a single sheet of graphite, is among the strongest substances known and has very unique physical properties.
Bohemian crystal glass has a centuries long history of being internationally recognised for its high quality and craftsmanship. In the Czech Republic, the term "crystal" is used for any exquisite, high quality glass. Bohemian crystal is just that - exquisite and it is recognised for its beauty and innovative designs. The glass is produced in Bohemia and Silesia which are parts of the Czech Republic.
Bohemian Garnet is a small stone, fiery red in colour. It is sought after all over the world due to its many qualities such as being heat and acid resistant, its colour stability and of course, its beauty. It is typically used in combination with gold and silver.
Moravian Library is the second biggest library in the Czech Republic and holds more than 4 million books.
Solar energy is used in many parts of the building for heating, natural ventilation and for the use of heat accumulation in the ceiling structures - allowing energy savings mainly for cooling during hot summer periods.
The main architectural feature of the building is a double solar façade which during the winter period allows the use of direct solar radiation and preheated air for heating the building, which reduces heat loss of the building. Besides the energy benefits in heating period, the double solar facade allows natural ventilation of the interior of the building in the interim and summer.
One wind turbine alone contains up to several hundred tons of steel which needs replacing every 30-40 years. Fortunately, steel is fully recyclable, reducing the impact on the environment. In total, a single wind turbine can contain up to several hundred tons of steel, compared to several tons of copper and aluminium, as well as steel reinforced concrete for the base.
The wind turbines in Denmark contribute towards 28% of energy that is produced and the country has a goal to cover 50% of the country’s energy consumption by 2020.
Stainless steel is a very popular material for cookware due to its resistance to corrosion, scratching and denting as well as the fact that it does not react with alkaline or acidic foods. Thus, many designers use stainless steel in their work for example; the famous Danish Georg Jensen Leaf bowls which are of very high quality.
Advancements in the 19th and 20thcenturies meant that pots and pans from metals such as steel, stainless steel and aluminium could be economically produced. Kitchen cookware is typically made from a blend containing 18% chromium with either 8% nickel (or 18/8) or with 10% nickel (called 18/10).
In 1915 a large crowd of people witnessed the world’s first loudspeaker in action demonstrated by the Danish inventor Peter L. Jensen. Interestingly few changes have been made to the original design of the dynamic speaker over the decades. The permanent magnet is a ceramic ferrite material consisting of iron oxide strontium and a ceramic binder. The cone surround and spider are made of treated paper coated with an adhesive glue. The voice coil consists of a plastic bobbin with fine gauge insulated copper wire wound around it.
Information Technology has become a major dependency in today’s world and it’s hard to imagine a life without computers. Many different minerals are used in computers including copper, gold, platinum, tantalum, tin, zinc and nickel.
Estonia is perhaps the most connected country in the world in terms of Internet. In 2000, the country passed a law that made Internet access a basic human right, and today free wifi is available everywhere. This value paved the way for Estonia to become the first country with an online voting system in 2014.
But perhaps one of the most modern and well known Estonian inventions in the world today is Skype. This was invented and written by Estonian software developers Ahti Heinla and Prijt Kasesalu.
The idea of a small, ‘pocket-sized’ phone is not so modern as we first perhaps thought. In 1917, Finnish inventor Eric Tigerstedt, filed a patent for a telephone that could be folded and fit into a pocket with a very thin carbon microphone.
Today, up to 50 different metals are used in very small amounts which enable the user with different functionalities and are small in size in light in weight e.g. loud speaker magnets are made with new technology metals neodymium and dsyprosium. Cobalt and lithium are used for the battery, indium for the LED display, and gallium for the processor.
Finland has a population of 5.3 million and an estimated 2 million saunas. That means that for every 2 people in Finland, there is one sauna.
To heat a sauna, rocks are heated up to 500 - 800 degrees in an open oven. Not all rocks can withstand this heat however, so special rocks are needed, e.g. peridotite which is found at 30 km to 200 km deep in the earth. This rock consists mainly of iron and magnesium which conducts heat well and an ideal sauna rock.
In 1909 one of the first cosmetic companies was founded by Eugene Schueller in France which is today the biggest cosmetic firm in the world. Common ingredients in eye shadows consist among others of talc mica and magnesium stearate. Lipstick contains calcium carbonate and talc.
The word ‘tile’ comes from the French word tuile which is derived from the Latin word tegula meaning ‘a roof tile composed of fired clay’. The purpose of roof tiles is mainly to prevent rain from coming into the house and they are typically made from materials such as terracotta or slate. Today modern materials such as plastic and concrete are also used and some often have a waterproof glaze for durability. Roof tiles can also come in many different shapes sizes and designs.
France and Italy are the leading European perfume designers and traders.
The glass bottle used for perfume has evolved immensely over time and the history of the first man-made glass can be tracked back as far as 5000-3500 BC. The original process of making glass was used by coating sand with molten glass, based on the chemical compound silica (silcon dioxide), the primary constituent of sand. Nowadays, glass blowing is used primarily to make glass which still contains silica as well as other metals and metal oxides, like alumina, magnesia, boron oxide and lead oxide. Glass made from pure silica allows for a very clear and durable glass which is not only strong but, resistant to thermal shock also.e from pure silica allows for a very clear and durable glass which is not only strong but resistant to thermal shock also.
Before 1700’s preserving food was a challenge especially when it came to feeding large armies on the move during winter. Fortunately however by 1795 Nicolas Appert received a prize from Napoleon for designing a method of canning which involved glass jars sealed with wax.
Today steel cans are made of tinplate (tin-coated steel) or of tine-free steel.
The Berlin Train Station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof) was designed by architects Meinhard von Gerkan and Jürgen Hillmer and can hold more than 1,500 trains and 25,000 passengers on a daily basis. 500 000 m³ of concrete and 85,000 tons of steel was used to make the building and individual bays ventilation towers are equipped with 27000 glass blocks. Overarching the building is a giant dome (the roof) which is made from 11 800 glass panels, which are all uniquely different. Among the glass dome, an area of 2700 square meters of solar panels is composed of 1250 modules.
The beginning of the printing revolution can be attributed to the German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer and publisher, Johannes Gutenber who invented mechanical movable type printing. Some believe that this event was the most significant in the modern period as it introduced the renaissance era with mass communication and enabled a quicker spread of learning across the masses, permanently altering the structure of society.
Kaolin (also known as ‘china clay’), is a white, alumina-silicate and is used along with talc as a filler and coating and helps the paper machines to run smoothly.
In 1886, the German engine designer and engineer Karl Benz invented the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. He also pioneered the automobile manufacturer, Mecedes-Benz along with Betha Bemz.
The design of the car has evolved a lot over the decades and a range of different materials are used for their production. For example, high-strength steel and carbon fibre is used to improve crash protection of the vehicle and to lower the weight. Body panels, engine blocks, roofs, wheels and fuel tanks however are often made with aluminium.
The first silvered-glass mirror was invented by German chemist, Justus von Liebig in 1835. His invention involved a process of a thin layer or metallic silver onto glass through the chemical reduction of silver nitrate. As technology evolved so did the process of making mirrors and today mirrors are made with a glass substrate which is shaped, polished and cleaned, and then coated with either silver or aluminium.
It was when pharmacist Ottomar von Mayenburg experimented with tooth powder, mouthwash and ethereal oils that he developed a toothpaste called Chlorodont. Peppermint was added for flavour and the toothpaste became extremely popular.
Salt and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) are among materials that can be substituted for commercial toothpaste. Fluorine is the basic component of toothpaste.
The sun provides an incredible resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without pollution or global warming emissions. The technology used in association with solar power can determine how great the impact on the environment will be.
Main CRM for example, is pure silicium and acts as a semi-conductor material (polycristalline) while the dopant is phosphorus and boron. The panel is manufactured using silver and aluminium circuit paths and the panels are connected to each other by tin circuit paths.
Fortunately, the development of multi-junction photovoltaic cells, achieve high efficiency and has increased dramatically and are now widely used. They are able to capture more sunlight energy for conversion into electricity, in part due to their composition of different materials, including gallium arsenide, gallium indium phosphide and germanium.
It is said that ‘innovation is a gateway to success’. Currently, Germany is the world leading producer of automobiles which could be said is due to their innovative team, which includes many high innovative suppliers that are the back bone of the car manufacturing.
The car industry uses a tremendous number of materials to build cars, including iron, aluminum, plastic steel, glass, rubber, petroleum products, copper, steel and others. These parts are used to create everything from the small things such as the dashboard needles and wiring, to the big things such as the engine block or the transmission gears. Steel is by far the most used material in car manufacturing.
The Parthenon is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, which is a former temple. Contrary to the gleaming white facade which is often how Greek temples and structures are depicted, the Parthenon was most likely very colourful in its ancient state.
To ensure its stability and to preserve this partially ruined structure, restoration and reconstruction processes have begun. All new reconstruction metalwork uses titanium, a strong, light, and corrosion resistant material.
In the 1880’s the people of Cycladic began using a whitewash to reflect the harsh summer sun.This trend became so popular that by the 1930’s, a new regulation was passed that meant all new buildings had to be painted white to create homogeneity.
Whitewash is durable, cheap and also serves as a natural disinfectant due to its oxidising and antibacterial properties. It is made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and chalk (calcium carbonate).
The Charioteer of Delphi is made from copper and is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient bronze statues.
To commemorate the victory of a chariot team in the Pythian Games, the statue of Delphi was made in 478 or 474 BC. It is made from Copper and is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient bronze statues.
Remarkably, the statue is nearly intact except for the left forearm and some details on the head are missing including the copper inlays of the lips and most of the silver eyelashes and headband. Fortunately the statue was not melted down (like most statues were for their raw materials) as it was buried under a rock fall at Delphi.
The Budapest Metro is the oldest electrified underground railway system on the European continent, and the second-oldest in the world, predated only by the 1890 City & South London Railway (now part of the London Underground). Its iconic Line 1, completed in 1896, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002.
More than half of all zinc that is mined today is used for galvanizing. Galvanizing is applying a thin coat of zinc over other metals to prevent them from corroding or rusting. Zinc is also used in many metal alloys.
Tungsram-lightbulbs were designed by the Hungarian chemist and inventor Sándor Just and Croatian Franjo Hanaman. When first designed, the bulbs were significant by the fact that they lasted longer and gave brighter light than the carbon filament type of light bulb. The Hungarian company called Tungsram first marketed the tungsten filament lamps in 1904 and are now known throughout Europe as Tungsram-bulbs.
Either nitrogen and argon gas are used to retard the tungsten filament, creating a longer lasting and brighter light.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge, that crosses over the River Danube between Buda and Pest. It was designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark in 1849 and was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary.
For its day, the construction of the bridge was very modern and considered to be an engineering wonder. The bridge is made with stone and cast iron.
Many tourists think the Sun Voyager sculpture represents a Viking ship however the Sun Voyager was essentially envisioned as being a dreamboat, an ode to the sun symbolizing light and hope. Chromium has been used to give metal a shiny coating, commonly known as chrome.
Cans have been used to store food and drinks for over 200 years. The first cans were made of tin and later, cans were made of steel. The first aluminium drinking can was produced in 1958. The typical ‘ring pull’ to open your drinking can was introduced in 1961. Europe’s first and still only aluminium recycling plant is in Warrington in the UK and it is the largest recycler of aluminium drink cans in the world. 20 cans can be made with the energy that is needed to produce one can from aluminium ore.
During the onset of the Industrial period, the use of bricks as a building material began replacing stone due to efficiency and economy.
Bricks (in particular, fired bricks) have a reputation for being the strongest and longest-lasting building materials. Bricks are made of a kneaded clay-bearing soil, sand and lime, or concrete material, fire-hardened or air-dried, used in masonry construction. Air-dried bricks (or mudbricks) have an additional ingredient of a mechanical binder such as straw.
The first Vespa was produced in 1946. With 18 million scooters sold worldwide, the Vespa was the first globally successful scooter. Vespa’s are made from pressed steel to provide rigidity. CNN ranked Vespa one of 12 best designs in the last 100 years.
The Trevi fountain was made from an enormous stone called travertine, a name which means “from the Tiber” in Latin. The stone is made of calcium carbonate likely formed from the spring waters of the city Tivoli, Rome. Interestingly, the Colosseum is made from the same material.
A symbol of the Italian Capital, and one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions; the Roman Colosseum is also considered to be one of the greatest work of Roman architecture and engineering.
It measures 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a base area of 24,000 m² and reaches more than 48 meters high. Over 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone was used for the outer wall of Colosseum which was set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. Astonishingly, the building only took 10 years to make, starting in 70 AD and was finished in 80 AD.
There are many debates about the invention of glasses. According to some sources, the invention of the first wearable pair of eyeglasses occurred in the 13th century in Italy.
Although the inventor is not for certain, it is known however that the first eyeglasses had frames made of metal or bone and had lenses made out of quartz because the ''opticians'' of that time didn't have the capabilities of producing flawless lenses in glass.
Today frames are generally produced of metal or plastic, and lenses are produced of glass or plastic. In 1955 the unbreakable lenses were invented and in 1971 a new lens were developed which combined the properties of plastic with glass.
Jacob Davis, born as Jacob Youphes in 1834 in Riga invented and patented riveted pants together with Levi Strauss. Denim pants had been around since the 1600s but the rivets were first used on “waist overalls” to make them stronger especially on pockets created the first real jeans in 1873. The typical orange stitching was designed to match the copper rivets.
The backboard behind the hoop was added to stop audience from interrupting games. The problem with this however was that the audience behind the backboard could not see if there was a score. Glass see-through backboards were the solution to this and should be held by a steel or aluminium frame, so the board is rigid. Glass backboards give the ball a much better rebound than plastic backboard and are hence the material of choice for professional games.
Although drums do not contain a lot of steel, metals are essential for a lot of music instruments, most notably for wind instruments. For instance, most trumpets are made of brass with 70% copper and 30% zinc, but silver and even gold trumpets are sometimes created for special occasions. Also, strings on a guitar for example, might be made of metals. The metal that is used for the string influences the tone and steel strings are known to give bright tones, whereas nickel gives a warm sound and chrome is usually preferred by jazz and blues artists.
The principal construction material of Trakai castle is typical red Gothic brick. The major advancement in brick making was burning the clay in a kiln instead of letting the clay dry in the sun and this process was introduced on big scale by the Romans. The typical red brick that can found in buildings all over northern Europe was reintroduced in the 12th century.
The facade of the Luxembourg Philharmonie contains 823 columns made out of white steel, arranged in three or four rows. The interior row of columns containing technical facilities, the second supporting the windows, and the third being of a static nature.
The colour of steel can be altered by changing the alloy components and proportions, the amount of oxidation or by heating it to a certain temperature.
Porcelain is made primarily from kaolin. The composition of porcelain is highly variable, but the clay mineral kaolinite is often a raw material. Other raw materials can include feldspar, ball clay, glass, bone ash, steatite, quartz, petuntse and alabaster. Porcelain is hard, impermeable (even before glazing) and resonant and is most popularily used for utilitarian wares and artistic objects.
The famous Luxembourgish company Villeroy & Boch started its production in 1748.
Luxembourg, officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is the world's only remaining grand duchy. Luxembourg has the world's highest GDP (PPP) per capita, according to the United Nations in 2014. In the industrial sector, the Luxembourg steel industry continues to occupy the first place in the country, even after the industrial reconversion which has taken place since the 1960s. Iron was already worked and processed by the Celts in the region of what is modern-day Luxembourg.
In the second half of 2015 Luxembourg is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The Church of St. John at Kaneo overlooks beautiful Lake Ohrid. It was likely built in the 13th century and has undergone several renovations since then. The church is constructed of stone and wood, with the roof made of red ceramic tiles. Such tiles are typically made from materials such as terracotta or slate. The church exterior is adorned with ceramic sculptures and stone carvings. During renovations in the 20th century, frescoes were discovered in the dome of the church that have been exceptionally well-preserved. Such paintings were made by spreading a lime plaster and painting the surface while it was still wet.
It is believed that changing the colours of the traditional Luzzu fishing boats brings bad luck. Traditionally paint for boats contained copper that is toxic to marine life which prevents algae from growing on the boat. Gradually copper in boat paint is being banned now to protect the environment and replaced by organic biocides and for instance cuprous oxide.
One of the unique treasures of Malta is not found in a grand view of the skyline or a landscape – it is on the doors of homes. Malta’s traditional, handmade door knockers are beautiful works of art. Known in Maltese as il-habbata, these brass knockers are quite heavy. Brass is formed by creating an alloy out of copper and zinc, varying the proportions of the two minerals to produce the desired properties. The brass of the Maltese knockers has been shaped into Maltese crosses, lions’ heads, delicate hands and maritime motifs such as fish, sea horses and dolphins. You can find them across Malta, but they are most common in the former capital city of Mdina.
At time of completion in 1940, Đurđevića Tara Bridge was the biggest vehicular concrete arch bridge in Europe. Concrete is the most used material in the world and is an invention accredited to the Romans. After the Roman Empire collapsed, the use of concrete became rare until it was rediscovered in the mid-18th century. Concrete is a mixture of water, cement and aggregates like sand and gravel.
There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands. The country’s 16,8 million inhabitants own over 18 million bikes. But less than 10% of cycling trips are just for fun and leisure. The bicycles are actually used as transportation within cities to go to work, go shopping or meet friends. This is great for the environment and for health, but minerals and metals are needed to produce bikes. Where frames used to be mainly made of steel, more bikes have aluminium or even carbon bike frames these days, because these materials are much lighter. Even the rubber tyres contain numerous minerals, like zinc, sulphur, salt, iodine and silica.
The university building Minnaert in Utrecht was designed to be as ecologically friendly as possible. The building features a pond in the main hall, filled with captured rain water that is used for cooling the building. Another unusual aspect of the building is that its foundation is not made of massive concrete pillars, but on thin 10cm by 10 cm steel beams that also function as window frames.
The Compact Disc (CD) was developed by Sony (with help from Philips) in Eindhoven. The size of the hole in a CD was based on a Dutch 10-cent coin, and the first song to come out on CD was ABBA’s The Visitors in 1982.A CD is made from 1.2 millimetres (0.047 in) thick, polycarbonate plastic and weighs 15–20 grams. A thin layer of aluminium or, more rarely, gold is applied to the surface, making it reflective. The metal is protected by a film of lacquer normally spin coated directly on the reflective layer.
Solar cells convert the energy of sunlight to electricity. Most cells consist mainly of silicon, but additions of other metals and minerals are being developed and tested to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Thin film cells made from other materials are being developed to reduce the costs of solar cells by reducing the amount of material required. For instance cadmium tellurium photovoltaics are cheaper and have lower water use and a smaller carbon footprint. However tellurium is a very rare element and could limit the production of these cells. The highest efficiency of a thin film solar cell so far has been achieved by a copper indium gallium selenide solar cell. Beside the elements mentioned in the name of this cell, it also contains many others like molybdenum, zinc, cadmium, sulphur and aluminium.
The first aerosol spray can patent was granted in Oslo in 1927 and the can has developed a lot since then. Modern aerosol spray products have three major parts: the can, the valve and the actuator or button. The can is most commonly lacquered tinplate (steel with a layer of tin) and may be made of two or three pieces of metal crimped together. Aluminium cans are also common and are generally used for more expensive products.
When Norwegian master carpenter, Thor Bjørklund became continually frustrated with the difficulties of slicing cheese with a knife, he invented the cheese slicer which was inspired by a common carpenter’s plane. Since then, the cheese knife has become a common utensil in most households.
The blade of a cheese knife is usually made from a metal such as stainless steel which is resistant to the stickiness of cheese. They also sometimes have holes in the blade to help prevent the cheese from sticking to it.
In the 15th century the Cloth Hall in Kraków was a centre of international trade. Lead, salt and textiles were important export products of Poland, while spices, leather and silk were imported.
The Wieliczka salt mine, close to the city of Kraków, produced salt continuously from its opening in the 13th century until 2007. The mine has a depth of 327 and extends for 287km.
Copper is a vital mineral to all living beings. Insufficient copper in the human body is as much a health threat as a shortage of iron. Ingredients rich in copper for example are beef, nuts, black pepper and wheat.
The Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe and is built into the pier on an internal sea. Its conceptual design, architecture, and exhibit design was led by Peter Chermayeff and is said to resemble an Aircraft carrier. Materials used in building the aquarium were chosen for their weatherproof and corrosion resistant properties as well as they ability to ensure optimal performance over many decades. Thus, steel and aluminium alloys were used and were created by adding small amounts of other metals such as copper, manganese, nickel, magnesium and zinc.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge spans the Tagu River in Parque das Nações in Lisbon, capital of Portugal. It has a total length of 17.2 kilometres, making it the longest bridge in Europe. It is estimated that the bridge will last at least 120 years, having been designed to withstand wind speeds of 250 km/h and hold up to an earthquake 4.5 times stronger than the historical 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The deepest foundation piles, up to 2.2 m in diameter, were driven down to 95 m under mean sea level. 718 million euros was spent in the making of the bridge which may not be surprising when 100000 tonnes of steel was used for reinforcement alone.
Many pedestrian pavements of main urban areas in Portugal, consist of various different flat stones which are arranged to form a pattern or picture, much like a mosaic - these are called ‘Calcada’.
The pavements profit from the local mineral resources, being carpeted with limestone and basalt, but also with granites, marbles, schists and quartzites, originating the world famous Portuguese ‘calçada’.
Titanium dioxide is mostly used in paint, but has many other applications. Because it is non-toxic, it is also used as a colouring agent in foods, in cleaning agents and toothpaste has a white colour because of this mineral. It has a very high refractive index, meaning it scatters back most of the light. In fact, only diamond has a higher refractive index. This property gives titanium oxide its most important asset: it has incredible whitening powers.
Romanian Petrache Poenaru designed the first fountain pen, with a barrel made from a large swan quill which was patented in May 1827 by the French Government. In those days, a tiny fragment of ruby was attached to form the wear-point. The pen soon evolved and in the 1830’s iridium was used on the iridium-tipped gold dip pen nibs.Today’s modern fountain pen looks somewhat different and are usually made from stainless steel or gold alloys with the most popular gold content being 14 and 18 carat gold.
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. His patented AC induction motor and transformer were licensed by George Westinghouse, who also hired Tesla for a short time as a consultant. His work in the formative years of electric power development was involved in a corporate alternating current/direct current "War of Currents" as well as various patent battles.
The Cable car Tatranská Lomnica - Lomnický štít is a unique cable car in the High Tatras Mountains, Slovakia and was built in the 1930’s. At the time of its opening, it was one of the most unique cable car systems in the world and it was a holder of several world records.
Iron by itself is not very strong. Mixing iron with a small amount of carbon can increase the strength about a 1000 times. This alloy of iron and carbon is what we call steel. Adding other metals to the mixture will modify the properties of the steel further.
Slovak Jozef Maximilian Petzval is most renowned for his work on optical lenses in the 1840’s, which was instrumental in the construction of modern cameras. He is also remembered for greatly improving the telescope and designing the opera glass.
Another name for opera glasses, is theatre binoculars or Galilean binoculars and are a magnifying device. They are usually compact in size and are used at performances such as operas when a member of the audience wants to get a close-up view of the performance on stage.
Most horseshoes are made out of steel or aluminium. Aluminium is lighter but wears out a lot quicker. Specialised shoes can also be made out of rubber, plastic, magnesium, titanium or copper.
The most abundant use of borates is in making and improving the properties of glass and insulation, followed by the glazing of ceramics. A borate glaze improves mechanical and chemical durability. Wall tile glazes contains between 3 and 20% boron trioxide and are also responsible for enhancing the gloss or brilliance. The glaze itself or only the ceramic beneath can be coloured.
The Park Güell is located on Carmel Hill, in Barcelona (Spain) and was designed by Antoni Gaudí, whom was a well renowned and genius architect for his time. It took 14 years to construct the park, between 1900 and 1914. The park is for public use and is composed of gardens and architectonic elements which reflect Gaudi’s artistic plentitude and his interest in organic shapes.
The City of Arts and Sciences was designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela. It is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex in the city of Valencia, Spain.
The demand for base metals in the building and construction sector are part of an ongoing trend towards greater urbanisation. These metals are a key feature of sustainable and high performance building projects due to their technical performance in building applications, durability and because these metals can be recycled without loss of quality.
Although gold is very dense, it is also very soft and malleable. Only 1 gram of gold is needed to hammer a sheet of 1 square meter of sheet gold, to cover ornaments and give them the golden shine.
The typical red paint you see on many houses in Sweden has been used since the 16th century. The pigment of the so-called Falu Rödfarg comes from the mineralization of the Falun mine. The combination of copper, iron ochre, silicon dioxide and zinc, together has a protective effect on timber. The Falun mine was in production from the 10th century until 1992 and was Europe’s major copper provider in the 17th century.
Alkaline batteries are used in many household items and account for over 10 billion individual units produced worldwide. They consist of zinc and manganese(IV) oxide (Zn/MnO2 and it is the reaction between these two materials that makes them work. Batteries with alkaline (rather than acid) electrolyte were first developed by Swede Waldemar Jungner in 1899.
The alkaline battery has an alkaline electrolyte of potassium hydroxide, instead of the acid ammonium chloride or zinc chloride electrolyte of the zinc-carbon batteries which have a shorter shelf-life and lower energy density.
Before 1844 matches were poisonous as they were made with yellow phosphorus. Thankfully, Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch designed the safety match which used non-poisonous red phosphorus. The Swedes long held a virtual worldwide monopoly on safety matches, with the industry mainly situated in Jönköping. Today the coated end of a match, known as the match "head", contains either phosphorus or phosphorus sesquisulfide as the active ingredient and gelatin as a binder.
Victorinox is the producer of the original Swiss army knife. The company was named after the mother of the owner, Victoria. Nox was added to the name because the knife is made of stainless steel. Another term for stainless steel is inox, which comes from the French term inoxydable. By adding chromium to iron stainless steel does not oxidize – the process that forms rust – as plain iron does.
The term ‘stained glass’ dates back to one thousand years and is often found in the windows of churches, mosques or other significant buildings. Many different materials are used to create different colours in stained glass. For example, adding nickel at different concentrations produces colours of blue, violet or black glass. Dark red or opaque colours are created when pure metallic copper is added whilst adding titanium produces yellowish-brown coloured glass. The addition of Manganese gives an amethyst colour.
An example of modern stained glass window can be found in St. Anton church in Basel.
After getting sunburnt whilst out climbing, Swiss chemist Franz Greiter, introduced his first sun protection product in 1946 which was perhaps the first effective sunscreen. The cream was called Gletscher Crème (Glacier Cream) which soon became popular and was the basis of the company called Piz Buin which still exists today. In conjunction with the work of Friedrich Ellinger and Rudolf Schulze, Grieter also introduced the ‘sun protection factor’ (SPF) which has become a world wide standard for measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen. It has been estimated that the Gletscher Crème had an SPF of 2.
The Bosphorus Bridge, The First Bosphorus Bridge or simply the First Bridge as it is also known as, is a significant suspension bridges that connects Europe and Asia. It spans the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, Turkey.
It is a gravity-anchored suspension bridge with steel towers and inclined hangers. The aerodynamic deck hangs on zigzag steel cables.
Marble is commonly used as a decorative stone in buildings and few buildings are even entirely made out of marble. The mihrab, columns in the Sultan Ahmed mosque in Istanbul are made of finely carved white marble. Most marble is white, but impurities can change its colour from anything from dark grey and greens to bright pink, red and yellows. In ancient times you could easily tell a marbles origin by looking at its colour.
Aluminium is the most used metal after iron. It has the advantage that it is about 3 times as light as iron, making it a perfect material for airplanes. Aluminium is the most abundant metal found naturally on earth, but is nonetheless very difficult to extract because it is very reactive.
Fertilizers made from potash, phosphate rock, sulphur and nitrogen enable agriculture to flourish. Phosphates and potash (salts that contain water-soluble potassium) are both extracted directly from minerals. Phosphorus is important for the development of the roots, flowers, fruits and seeds. Phosphorus is mined from limestones and mudstones with a high phosphate content.
The London Eye is the fourth tallest structure in London, measuring at a height of 135m and is Europe’s largest Ferris wheel. The major components of the structure come from six European countries. The steel was supplied by the UK and fabricated in the Netherlands. The steel cables that tension the rim of the eye come from Italy. The bearings of the wheel came from Germany, the spindle and hub were cast in the Czech Republic, the capsules were made in France with glass from Italy, and the electrical components come from the UK.
In 1768, the first iron plate railway came into use. This was made with wrought iron plates on top of wooden rails which allowed a variation of gauge to be used but eventually steel replaced these often brittle and uneven iron plates. After the British development of the steam locomotive, railway development blossomed and mainline railways were constructed, acting as a key component of the industrial revolution. Studies have shown that the invention and development of railways in Europe was one of the most paramount technological inventions of the late 19th century for the United States.
The iconic and major London railway terminus, King's Cross railway station, opened in 1852 on the northern edge of central London. £500 million was spent in 2005 in renovations by Network Rail and the project was so successful that it was awarded a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award in 2013.
Pharmaceuticals are the UK’s 4th biggest export product in value.
Sulphur and salt are just two of the basic ingredients in many of today's life-saving and health-protecting drugs and pharmaceutical preparations. Among the many other minerals and metals used in the production of pharmaceuticals are bromine, stibnite (the main ore of antimony), copper, platinum group metals, potash, silica, sodium carbonate, zinc, clay, and lithium. Iodine is important for its antiseptic effects. Industrial minerals in medicines are either an active substance or a carrier or binder of another substance. Minerals that are active will for instance regulate pH or function as adsorbents. Bismuth is used to cure stomach upsets and Platinum group elements are in cancer-fighting medicines.